Cross The River

I’m hungry

                                    Cross the river

I’m afraid

            Your failure could never be as great as your fear

                                                                       Cross the river

G-d stepped away from me

            He brought you the river

                                    Cross the river

Don’t you understand?

            Understanding need not be anyone’s but yours

                                    Cross the river

I’m confused

            You’re hungry

                                    Cross the river

I don’t swim well

            The depth of the river is determined by your belief

                                    Cross the river

It seems dark

            You’re the creator of your darkness

                                    Cross the river

Maybe tomorrow

            Tomorrow belongs to somebody else

                                    Cross the river

(Excerpt from: I Once Asked a Wise Man by Ricky Cohen. Publication date: Sept 2012)      

As we circle back to this time of year, year after year, I find myself wondering: “Why is it that I haven’t yet done certain things that are clearly for my benefit, grown beyond obviously unwanted practices, and stepped away from behaviors that I know are wrong for me?”

As I prepare to stand before my Creator, and myself, and consider how I’ve lived my life this past year, I’m confused about the obvious question: “Why haven’t I yet become more of the person I know I should be?”

Repentance is what one does to explain why he/she didn’t do what he was supposed to do…

So just do it already!

Throughout time there have been multitudes of men and women, great and otherwise, who have come to the banks of the river, time and time again – and been unable to cross; in fact many were unable to even enter the water.

Each of us has our own story of opportunities lost, challenges ignored, and remaining in the same place year after year – in areas of life where growth and change would bring immediate, tangible benefits. I can list many things that would enhance my life and the lives of those I love – if only I did them.

As a teenager I used to listen to my favorite disc jockey on the radio on New Year’s Eve. Each year, he would request that his listeners call in with their “New Year’s Resolutions”. Each year many would call in, committing themselves to be kinder fathers, more patient mothers, go back to school to complete a degree, reconcile with a family member, lose 30 pounds…

Each year the DJ would ask each of his call in guests: “So how many times have you made this resolution?”

Life’s possibilities are never unachievable or beyond our reach. They are not in the heavens… Nor are they across the ocean – immense and unmanageable. They are close to us – in our mouths and our hearts – ready to be acted upon.

Repentance is a suspension of reality in order to reclaim reality. It is the great gift afforded us by the Almighty to sidestep the hard wired link between action and reaction. It is the facility that enables us to rewrite the scripts of many different situations and circumstances – and turn failures into platforms for unprecedented growth.

It’s all about courage.

It takes courage to cross the river – or to even step into the water. It takes courage to remove the shackles of comfort and complacency that have limited who I am and the pressure I feel to become more.

Comfort should be enjoyed physically but never mentally or spiritually. Complacency is a state of mind unbefitting for anyone with an ounce of life in him.

Courage is what it’s all about. Courage is one’s strongest advocate, his essential character trait – the force that gives birth to repentance and enables growth.

So begin to cross the river:

  1. Reveal 3-5 important changes you’d like to make in your life.
  2. List them on an Excel spread sheet.
  3. Fill in the other columns of your spread sheet with the actions you will take each week or month (depending on what you’ve chosen to do) to ensure that you keep moving forward.
  4. Share it with a friend. Someone who might share his with you. Become partners and guarantors of each other’s success. Support each other and demand that the consistent, ongoing steps necessary for real advancement and noteworthy achievement are never abandoned.

The depth of the river is determined by your belief.

He brought you the river. Cross the river!

Warmest regards,



2 Responses to “Cross The River”

  1. Jack Says:


    There are many out there – especially in our community – who are not necessarily complacent, but happy with the way they are in their beliefs, and in their being as a whole. They dont see life as a challenge where they need to cross a river, but rather are not looking to rock the boat per se, of their lives. They don’t see a need for growth, and moreso find growth to be disruptive to their normal everyday life.

    What comes to mind is the type of person greets you with “Happy New Year”, not because they dont know hebrew, or dont know the proper greeting of “Tizke LeShanim Rabbot” or “Shana Tova”.

    High holiday time comes around, and we are inspired to do better, do more, make ourselves better. What about when you are the ‘cross the river’ type, and your parent, child, or spouse is the ‘dont rock the boat’ type? At some point it affects ones own ability to grow spiritually.

    Once again, thanks for a thoughtful article. I look forward to your reply.

    • rickynme Says:

      Dear Jack,
      First of all thank you for taking the time to read the column and to share your thoughts. I appreciate it very much.
      Complacency, peace of mind and perspectives like that are the antithesis of Judaism – to a greater extent the direct contradiction of what man was mandated to do on this plan. Yet as you said, most people are risk adverse – unwilling to reach beyond what is comfortably within their reach. Often times it works out that the most courageous risk takers – those who are always stepping into new rivers attempting to cross, are married to people who are exactly the opposite. I believe that is part of the order of things, how it should be. Those who don’t want to perpetually grow are magnificent people to be loved and learned from but they mustn’t stop those of us whose living is defined by building, reaching and trying. Crossing rivers is life’s oxygen, it is the furthering of creation and the refinement and perfecting of the individual. We must keep crossing the rivers. We must deeply love those who don’t but never allow them to dampen our ability to dream and strive. We must instill a sense of unconditional love and unbeatable self confidence in our children so they will always have the courage to step into the water. So that they will never imagine things being done any differently. Warmest regards, Ricky

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